When mixing, using a transient processor can be extremely effective for adding focus and balance to a signal whilst leaving the dynamics intact. We’ll check out the best free transient shaper VST plugins and look at some situations they might come in handy.
These processors vary in design from simple interfaces with only a few controls that rely mostly on the level-dependent processing algorithms in the backend to more complex plugins that give you more hands-on control.
Each of these plugins has its own specific sound, so always keep your workflow in mind, as this is usually the best way to find one that suits your purpose.
FREE Transient Shaper Plugins
These are the best free transient shapers:
- Flux BitterSweet v3
- Auburn Sounds Couture
- Sonic Anomaly Transpire
- Surreal Machines Crack
- Kilohearts Transient Shaper
- Seed To Stage Transient Shaper
Flux BitterSweet v3
BitterSweet v3 is a freeware transient processor from one of the world’s most renowned plug-in developers. Although it’s a slightly scaled-down version of BitterSweet Pro, it’s still a highly effective transient shaper with various capabilities.
Each instance of the plug-in can process 8 individual channels at once, making it suitable for an entire drum kit. The three different operating modes are specialized for different types of processing. “Main” deals with stereo signals and allows you to work on multiple input channels.
Meanwhile, the other two are Mid/Side modes. “Centre” works only with the Mid channel, and Stereo processes the side channel exclusively. This makes BitterSweet a versatile tool in different situations, whether you choose to use it before compression or after.
More info: BitterSweet v3
Auburn Sounds Couture
Auburn Sounds takes a slightly different approach to transient processing with Couture. It’s a level-dependent processor, which means it reacts more aggressively or subtly according to the volume of the input signal. Although the Freemium version has the saturation section deactivated, it’s still a very capable processor.
Furthermore, Couture has three different input detection modes. While “Flat” treats all signals equally, “Human” is a detection algorithm based on the Fletcher-Munson equal loudness contours. “Sybil,” on the other hand, will focus on resonant frequencies, which is perfect for de-essing.
With each setting, adjusting the Bass Amt knob will change the way the detector reacts to low frequencies. In the Transient section, the Sharpen knob emphasizes different parts of the waveform to varying degrees. Turning to the right will increase the attack and reduce the sustain while turning to the left will have the opposite effect.
More info: Couture
Sonic Anomaly Transpire
Transient processing is a simple operation with Transpire from Sonic Anomaly. The interface might appear simple, but it’s capable of dealing with complex percussive passages.
Instead of processing transients at a particular threshold, Transpire works harder on the definition of the lower levels of a signal while keeping the more prominent transients intact. This non-linear approach results in a more natural overall sound with steadier dynamics than you might experience from other transient processors.
The attack and sustain controls can emphasize or dampen the different aspects of any signal. When using a low-sensitivity setting, Transpire is best prepared to tackle non-percussive signals. Meanwhile, higher sensitivity will focus more easily on the more defined transients found in drum loops.
More info: Transpire
Surreal Machines Crack
If you need a low CPU plug-in to use on all your drum channels, Crack by Surreal Machines is a quick solution to keep your transients in line. Its straightforward interface is easy to get the hang of, but the controls are precise enough to make finer adjustments.
One way to approach the processing of a drum bus would be to use the mix control to blend the wet and dry signals for a more subtle effect. This means you get a more natural overall sound and maintain the integrity of your original drum recording.
The dynamics section provides four different modes, which are each designed for a specific purpose. You can choose between clipping, limiting, and maximizing, or use the “Thru” setting if you’d like to make the gain adjustments manually.
More info: Crack
Kilohearts Transient Shaper
Kilohearts recently released a collection of freeware plugins for mixing and sound design. Their freely downloadable “Essential Bundle” includes the Transient Shaper plugin, and it’s one of the best offerings on the market.
Similar to the other Kilohearts plugins, it’s a rather minimalist-looking tool. However, don’t let the looks deceive you. This tiny plugin delivers high-precision transient shaping results while offering plenty of visual feedback.
Thanks to BPB readers Christian H. and Jamie M. for suggesting Kilohearts Transient Shaper in the comments section.
More info: Kilohearts
Seed To Stage Transient Shaper
If you’re an Ableton Live user, this Transient Shaper rack from Seed To Stage is a great option for transient processing. These types of processors are easy to use and use very little CPU to run, which makes them perfect for beginners.
A feature that stands out in this rack is the ability to set the lengths of your attack and sustain independently while still being able to control how much of the transient you are shaping. In addition, there is a saturation control and a bass parameter for adjusting how much of the low-end is processed.
The makeup gain knob is also useful to compensate for any attenuation that occurs in the process. Overall, this is a very versatile processor, especially when used in parallel on an aux track.
More info: Seed To Stage
Free Transient Shapers: Honorable Mentions
Here are a few more transient shaper plugins, just in case you’re looking for more options:
- TRAX by Analog Obsession
- SpikeQ by Low Wave Studios
- ATKTransientShaper by Matthieu Brucher
- Dominion by digitalfishphones
For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.